Thai teen 'came to learn from pros' but left with title

Thai golfer Atthaya Thitikul, 14, during the third round of the Ladies European Thailand Championship in Pattaya. She won by two shots from Mexican Ana Menendez.
Thai golfer Atthaya Thitikul, 14, during the third round of the Ladies European Thailand Championship in Pattaya. She won by two shots from Mexican Ana Menendez.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BANGKOK • You can watch golf's new wunderkind at the SEA Games in Malaysia next month.

But Atthaya Thitikul will still remain an amateur despite her heroics last Sunday.

Aged just 14 years and four months, she created history by becoming the youngest winner of a professional tournament.

The Thai, who hails from the western province of Rachaburi, calmly slotted home a must-win final putt on the 18th hole to see off Ana Menendez, 25, of Mexico and secure a two-shot victory at the Ladies European Thailand Championship in Pattaya.

She smashed the record set by Canada's Brooke Henderson who won the Canadian Women's Tour in June 2012 aged 14 years, nine months and three days and also beat the Ladies European Tour record held by former world No. 1 Lydia Ko, who took the 2013 New Zealand Open aged 15 years, nine months and 17 days.

"I didn't expect to win this tournament as I just came here to learn techniques from the pro players," said Atthaya, who after finishing at five-under 283 disclosed that she would not turn professional for a few years because she needs more experience. "I'm so happy and proud of myself."

Atthaya said her caddie had kept her calm during the final round.

CALMING EFFECT

My caddie helped me a lot, not to think too much, to focus on my game plan and to plan the tee shots and second shots.''

ATTHAYA THITIKUL, on the important role her caddie played.

"I did not look nervous, but of course I felt nerves on the first tee and on the first hole," she said. "I did not think about the score.

"My caddie helped me a lot, not to think too much, to focus on my game plan and to plan the tee shots and second shots."

As an amateur she could not keep her prize winnings. The top €45,000 (S$71,000) cheque went to runner-up Menendez while €27,500 went to third-placed pro Whitney Hillier.

Interestingly, Atthaya does not come from a family of golfers.

"My family do not play golf. When I was younger, aged six, my father told me to play sport and he offered tennis or golf and I watched golf on TV and I liked it," she said.

In eight years she has made vast strides, competing against seasoned players, some twice her age.

In June, she won the Taiwan Amateur Open and last month finished third in the Queen Sirikit Cup in China.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2017, with the headline 'Thai teen 'came to learn from pros' but left with title'. Print Edition | Subscribe